Triumphant “Headwind Hall” (Vastutuulesaal)
Archived Articles 12 Oct 2007 Alan TederEWR
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Film on Tõnu Kaljuste will close the 3rd Annual EstDocs Documentary Film Festival on Oct. 26, 2007

The building of an opera house may not immediately strike most people as a prime subject for a very dramatic film.

Yet, it is sometimes the most extreme circumstances that can be the setting for the most compelling stories, as it was with real life composer’s Richard Wagner struggles to build his Festspeilhaus in Bayreuth, Germany and with eccentric film director Werner Herzog as he showed in his semi-fictional mad-dream-of-opera-in-the-Amazon-jungle film “Fitzcarraldo”. Such is the case in the documentary film “Headwind Hall” (Vastutuulesaal) by director Priit Valkna and producer Artur Talvik which tells a similar "opera house in the middle of nowhere" tale in an Estonian setting that has a very Estonian realization in the end.

The charismatic conductor Tõnu Kaljuste resigned his position as music director and chief conductor of the world renowned Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in late 1999 and set out on a quixotic quest to build an opera/concert hall on the island of Naissaar situated about 8 km. northwards of the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

Naissaar, also known as the Island of Nargen, was previously the family homestead of world renowned telescope and lens inventor Bernhard Schmidt (1879-1935) among whose other theoretical inventions was a wind-powered sail/propeller boat which used the force of the wind to sail directly into the wind itself. The idea of this “against the headwind ship” becomes the metaphor for Kaljuste’s dream to realize the construction of his opera/concert hall despite all the forces of bureaucracy, financing, and all practical common sense circumstances that are working against him. The present day Naissaar Island, for instance, had no electrical supply, a barely functioning harbour and only 2 permanent residents at the time this story all begins.

How Kaljuste went about this goal and the many characters he meets along the way, including Schmidt’s artist nephew now living in Mallorca, Spain, eminent Estonian novelist Jaan Kross, film director/musician Hardi Volmer, theatre director Peeter Jalakas and various stone-masons, ship’s captains, architects, and municipal bureaucrats, is shown in this exhilarating film that has many different moments of despair before the original plans come to their surprising final fruition.

It all ends to the soundtrack accompaniment of the stream-of consciousness pop hit “My People” (“Minu inimesed”) by the young Estonian rap/dance-club performer Chalice (the single monikered stagename of singer Jarek Kasar) which gives a musical benediction to Kaljuste’s efforts while composer Arvo Pärt declares on-screen that “the Estonian people can’t begin to appreciate the trouble that Tõnu has gone through”. Thanks to director Priit Valkna's triumphant “Headwind Hall”, we get the chance to see it and appreciate it for ourselves.
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